Primitive inhabitants in Kerala are only about two hundred
thousand now and these are scattered in the jungles and
hills of the state prominants. There are about 35 different
types of tribals, among whom the Kurichiyar, Nayadi, Mullakurumbar,
Uralikurumbar, Paniya, Mudaga, Irula, Ernadar, Kadar, Muthuvan,
Kanikkar, Uralees, Paliyan, Malavedan, Vettuvar, Eravallan,
Veda and Malayan are the notable ones.
of these aboriginal tribes has its own distinct dance tradition
and invariably all of them are interwoven with the life
of the people who perform peculiar dances so much so that
it seems that some of their daily tasks are set in rhythmic
pattern. In the background of mystery shrouded nature, tribal
celebrations originate and the dances work up intoxicating
excitement; manifesting physical expressions of their joys
and griefs, hopes and fears.
Some times the dancing is extremely simple and consists
of little more than shuffling of the feet or waving of the
hands. At other times it is swaying of the body to the clapping
of hands or beating of primitive drums to mark time. Yet
another form shows only the monotonous movement of the hands
and feet. But generally speaking, a wide range of movements
involving all parts of the body, the head, back hips, arms,
fingers and the feet and even facial muscles are utilized
in tribal dances
are very complicated tribal dances as well in which dancing
harmonises gesture, expressing the whole gamut of sentiment,
where rhythm is kept by swaying the body and intricate steps
executed with adept foot-work. Usually the dances have a
slow beginning, but gather momentum and work up to a heavy
tempo of the vociferous climax of the drums, and the ecstacy
of the ever-mounting rhythm of spontaneous music. Many of
these dances are heroic or martial in character.
tribes have songs to accompany their dances. Either the
dancers themselves sing or the on-lookers sing and thus
every one participates in the whole exercise. Special musical
instruments are sometimes used, but the drum is almost an
indispensable feature. The costumes of the dancers vary
from approximate nudity to full attire and ornaments which
are extremely colourful.
all tribal arts, Kerala's tribal dances are also spontaneous.
It is the most direct expression of the inner most spirit
of a people and the instinct of rhythm is as natural and
basic as human nature.
of the better known tribal dances of Kerala are Elelakkaradi,
Kadarkali, Kurumbarkali, Paniyarkali, Edayarkali, Mudiyattam
This is a highly heroic group-dance in which almost
the whole community of men, women and children participate.
The dance is very common with the tribals called
Irular of Attappadi in Palakkad district. The dance
brings out the fight of the people against the wild
boars which very often attack their tribal hamlets.
Only women partake in this primitive dance of the
Kaadar tribes of the forests of Kochi area. The
performers arrange themselves in a semicircle. They
hold the tip of their clothes in their hands to
the level of the waist and wave it to various rhythms
of the dance. It is a very simple but elegant tribal
dance in slow steps.
Waynad district has different types of hill tribes
of which the Kurumbar and the Kattunayakar are the
most prominent ones.. They perform a special type
of dance which is staged in connection with marriages.
This is a group dance of the Kanikkar tribes. The
dance is performed as a rural offering. The steps
of the dancers perfectly synchronise with the waving
of the hands and the beating of the drums.
Paniyar are another set of tribals inhabiting the
hilly forests of Wayanad district. Their dance is
highly masculine and only men participate. Here the
dancers numbering about eight or ten stand in a circle
with hands linked together. They move around with
rhythmic flexions of the body.
The Ramayana episode in which Sita is being enchanted
by Maricha in the guise of a golden deer is enacted
in graceful movements.
Gadhika is a ritual dance performed by Adiya tribes
of Waynad district. The art form is meant to cure
ailments. The performance is also done as part of
a ritual for having had a safe delivery of child.
It is mixed dance of the aboriginals of the dense
forest of Travancore area in which both men and women
participate. They dance holding arms together, or
shoulder to shoulder, linked in a backlock posture.
The dance develops into variety of pleasing pattern,
in which the men and women change their positions
with amazing speed.
Koorankali is another tribal dance which is similar
to Mankali. Here one man
enacts the role of a wild boar while another enacts
the role of a hunting dog. The movements are perfectly
timed to the rhythmic beats of primitive drums.
While this is going on, the large number of onlookers
who form a circle round the two dancers, shout wild
cries of joy with occasional clapping of hands and
Thavalakali is a tribal dance in which a number of
participants, usually boys, jump one above the other
in succession, imitating the leaps of the frogs.
Edaya nritham is the dance of the tribal shepherds.
Both men and women participate with One of the shepherds
acting as the lead singer. This is repeated in chorus
by all the rest. As the singing is in progress, one
from the group imitates the special sounds of shepherds
driving their sheep.
Mudiyattom, also known as Neelilayattom, is a tribal
dance in which only women partake. The women stand
on small wooden blocks and the dance begins with slow
and simple movements of the body which culminate in
graceful movements of the head. The uncombed hair
of the participants flow down and swing in rhythmic
This is particularly popular among the tribes in Wynad
and Malappuram districts. It is more ritualistic oriented
than pure entertainment. This is usually performed
as a pooja to please family deities and also during
the instruments,Thappu and Kuzhal are being played
the naikars begin their performance. With jingling
anklets round their legs, they dance in clock-wise
and anti-clockwise directions to the accompaniment
of the musical instruments.